France Strike Update: “Prepare the General Strike!”

  • La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue no. 219
  • Special Daily Supplement
  • Friday, 20 December 2019 

The government’s obstinacy leaves no other choice but to impose the withdrawal of the Macron-Philippe Plan:

Prepare the general strike!

Editorial

More than a daily newspaper, Le Monde is an institution of the Fifth Republic. In this capacity, the paper is always on the look-out for the slightest signal that indicates the re-establishing of capitalism’s “order”…in other words, an end to the strike action. So it was delighted to feature this headline today, 20 December: “Pensions reform: the government causes a crack in the trade union front before Christmas”.

Looking at this more closely, there is actually nothing surprising in it. The fact that the UNSA (1) leadership, which from the very beginning was won over to the principle or points-based pensions, is pretending to see openings in the government’s statements, or that the CFDT (2) leadership wants to detect positive signs in them, is a predictable scenario. However, there is also nothing surprising in the fact that in the enterprises that have shut down or are running idle, or in the administrative services and schools that have closed for the holidays, the situation is less conducive to extending the strike action.

1france TT Dec 20

For all that, is the regime’s major social and political crisis, which has been ongoing since 5 December, on the verge of ending? Le Monde would like to think so, but it remains cautious and is concerned to “know how these announcements will be received by the strikers, especially those who are members” of the CFDT and UNSA. In the same article, Raymond Soubie, former social policy adviser to Sarkozy, warned: “The issue is the grassroots. We have to see how they will react.

This is indeed the whole issue. Since the massive RATP (3) strike on 13 September, the push towards 5 December came from the grassroots. It is at the grassroots that there has been a huge growth in sovereign mass meetings and delegate meetings, and the election of strike committees on the basis of a mandate. It is from the grassroots, working its way to the top, that “Withdrawal!” [of the pensions reform draft law] was imposed as a slogan that is common to all. And today, it is at the grassroots that the SNCF [state railway] and RATP workers – whatever their trade union affiliation – have decided to continue the fight.

Should we conclude from this that the position adopted at the top is of secondary importance? Obviously not! The workers at the grassroots who are deciding on the forms and means of fighting back have every right to expect their leaderships to take on their own responsibilities. Yesterday, the Force Ouvriere, CGT, FSU and Solidaires confederal inter-union committee reaffirmed the demand for withdrawal and convened a new day of action. A contradictory decision: the succession of leapfrogging days of action risks exhausting and dispersing the workers’ forces. Faced with the government’s obstinacy, the shortest route to imposing withdrawal is the call to declare everywhere a state of preparedness for a general strike.

Endnotes

(1) National Union of Autonomous Trade Unions.

(2) French Confederation of Christian Workers.

(3) The Paris region transport network.

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1France TT Dec 19

 

  • La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers Tribune) Issue no. 219
  • Special Daily Supplement
  • 2.00 p.m., Thursday, 19 December 2019 

The government is calling for “a truce” – but it’s the government that started the war against the workers; It has the means to end it immediately:

Let It Withdraw the Macron-Philippe Plan Against Our Pensions!

Editorial

On the fourteenth day of strike action that began on 5 December, and following massive demonstrations (especially the latest one, on 17 December), where are we?

In several sectors, the strike action has been extended. Where it has not been extended, due especially to end-of-year leave, mass meetings and delegate meetings are often being convened to take place in very early January, to decide on the means of continuing the mobilisation in order to win.

The government is gambling on the movement breaking down. Receiving the trade unions yesterday [at the Hôtel de Matignon, the Prime Minister’s official residence], Edouard Philippe stuck to a line of apparent intransigence. But behind the display, [daily newspaper] Le Parisien referred to “considerable tension between the Elysee Palace and Matignon at a time when they need to find a way out of the crisis”, and quoted “one of the very first Macronists” as saying: “We have never been so close to breakdown at the highest levels of the State.”

On their side, the trade unions that support withdrawal reaffirmed their position on leaving Matignon: no truce before the draft law is withdrawn.

Excellent. But is the issue limited to the date and conditions for a hypothetical truce? A truce is a temporary suspension of the fighting during a war. The real question that millions of workers and youth are asking themselves, having committed – in one form or another – to strike action and demonstrations for two weeks, is: how do we win the war?

At the political level, several leaders of “left-wing” parties are holding rallies and public meetings. The fact that they are taking advantage of the circumstances to try and return to centre-stage, in the hope of laying the groundwork for brighter electoral tomorrows, that’s their business.

But there is an urgent need: the need to win the war started by the government and the capitalists against the workers’ pensions, in other words against the working class itself.

Faced with high-level State circles that “have never been so close to breakdown”, there can be no hesitation. Now is the time. Now is the time for all those who claim to support the movement that is underway, and its demand for withdrawal, to take on their responsibilities.

In the hospital units, in the workshops, in the schools, the demand is growing, addressed to the leaders of the labour organisations: call for the preparation of an all-out strike, call for the preparation of a general strike, do not let the government gamble on the movement breaking down.

Declare for a general strike, it will win!

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1France Le Retrait

  • La Tribune des Travailleurs (Workers’ Tribune) Issue no. 219
  • Weekly Issue
  • 18 December 2019

“Shareholders, Pension funds, Out Now — Along with Macron!”

Editorial

By Daniel Gluckstein

The defenders of the capitalist order generally display great contempt for “the masses”. Their preference is for an elite that “knows”…what is good for their interests. As far as those people are concerned, the masses are ignorant, sheep-like and manipulable.

However, the slogans that were chanted and written on banners on 17 December expressed a very good grasp of the situation. For example, this one, heard on a march by healthcare workers in Montpellier: “Shareholders, Pension Funds, Out Now — Along with Macron!”.

Can one imagine a more apt analysis?

The pension funds? It was the CEO of the world’s biggest pension fund manager, BlackRock, invited to the Elysee Palace by Macron in the weeks following his election, who dictated the terms of the Delevoye Plan. The transparent objective: the impoverishment of pensioners will make it obligatory to resort to private pension plans, a source of juicy profits for the pension funds. What was previously called the Macron-Philippe-Delevoye Plan should really be named the BlackRock-Macron-Philippe Plan.

The shareholders? On the eve of 17 December, the capitalist daily newspaper Les Echos said: “Euphoria on the Paris Stock Exchange. It’s happened. The CAC 40 index broke the symbolic barrier of 6,000 points this afternoon, for the first time in twelve years”, a growth of more than 26 per cent since the beginning of the year. That same day, Labour Minister Penicaud loudly congratulated herself in the press for the next increase in the SMIC [minimum wage]…by 1.2 per cent!

Contrary to what the Penicauds, Macrons and other Philippes believe, the workers do think about things. They understand that the argument of the so-called “pension deficit” is a pure fabrication. They know that there are astronomical amounts of money to be had: the hundreds of billions of euros provided for free by the central banks to the capitalists, who squander them on speculation; the hundreds of billions derived from exploitation; the billions in exemptions from employers’ social insurance contributions that were not covered by the State and are the source of the so-called deficit.

Hence, “Macron, Out!” The more the government clings to its plan and declares “its determination”, the more it is leading the workers to conclude: if the pensions counter-reform and the government are inextricably linked, should we, in order to save our pensions, hesitate to drive the government from power?

Through its blindness, the Macron-Philippe government is itself pushing to transform the social crisis into a political crisis and a regime crisis.

What attitude should be adopted by the leaders of the organisations that stand for the workers? Develop “counter-plans” and propose “other means of funding” to cover a deficit that does not exist?

No. Their responsibility is to not shy away from the confrontation into which the government is forcing the workers. Their responsibility is to not shy away from a general strike if there is no other path, and to call on the workers to prepare for it.

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